Claws out, everyone: Carroll University's psychology department is preparing certain animal lovers to fight like cats and dogs.
Researcher Denise Guastello and her team administered a survey to 600 college students, asking them to select whether they are cat or dog people, as well as which personality qualities they see in themselves and look for in pets. The results and interpretations are a little hairy.
Guastello claims that dog people, overall, can put feathers in their caps for being more energetic and outgoing. Beyond that, there's cause to wonder where Guastello and her crew might fall along the cat/dog spectrum.
Cat people, she found, are more introverted—and generally the cat's meow. They're more open-minded, sensitive, and individualistic and have a much higher average intelligence than dog people.
The results give good insight into how many people prefer certain kinds of animals, but the sample size for each camp differs greatly and might limit the value of personality interpretations. Of the 600 students, 60 percent said they are dog people, 29 percent like both cats and dogs, and only 11 percent said they were cat people. Despite one group's qualities having been gathered from a much smaller group, Guastello defends her interpretations of personality and has attempted to explain them.
Differences in personality based on pet preferences, she said, might parallel environmental preferences.
"It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they're going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog," Guastello told LiveScience. "Whereas, if you're more introverted and sensitive, maybe you're more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn't need to go outside for a walk."
Another interpretation is that people choose pets with personalities that mirror their own, she said, because of overlap in living habits.
This is not the first study aimed at picking apart how dog and cat people tick, though it might be the first using only college student results. Unsurprisingly, results vary.
A research group from the University of Texas at Austin found that dog lovers are the more extroverted, as well as more conscientious, agreeable, and self-disciplined; cat lovers were more open to new ideas and curious but 11 percent more neurotic. Another study from the University of British Columbia found that cat people are more trusting but also slightly more disagreeable, more obliging, and a third more likely to live alone. Dog people, while more suspicious, are more assertive, self-confident, and persistent.
"The general pattern that comes out of both studies is that dog owners are more social, interactive, and accepting, and cat owners (who own cats exclusively) are more introverted, self-contained, and less sociable," researcher Stanley Coren of the UBC study wrote regarding the UT-Austin study as well as his own.
Before you let any of these pet results peeve you, cuddle your furry companions. Multiple studies have concluded that petting both cats and dogs lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Our interpretation? Better adopt or pet-sit if you don't have either.
Note: A quick survey of Guastello's Facebook page reveals that she does not, in fact, appear to hate dogs.